Katie is an artist and a coach and she combines these roles as much as she can.
In this interview Katie shares with us her journey in coming to the realisation that having children was not part of her life. Katie explores the impact this has had on her, the positive and the more challenging conflicting emotions that arisen for her.
Katie decided not to share a photo of herself alongside her interview as this did not feel right for her. Katie chose the cover photo as she felt it encapsulated her story.
Anotherhood is about turning up the volume of the voices of women who do not have children, can you tell us why you wish to share your story with Anotherhood?
I thought maybe before I was offering a different perspective but it appears I am adding to the voices out there, which actually feels more empowering for me.
I have always been quiet about my story and my reasons for not having children but now I feel part of a collective, and that’s really comforting.
Can you share with us what was happening in your life when you realised you would not be having children?
It may seem a bit unusual but it was after having a miscarriage and the realisation of “phew”, that wasn’t meant to happen for me.
I think I had fallen into the trap of, I must keep going down this road, being in a relationship and then, not deliberately setting out to have children but that happening. I did not realise I was pregnant for a long time and it goes to show how powerful the subconscious mind is. All the signs were all around me, a funny taste of copper in my mouth, putting on the weight, I was compelled to go out and buy the video Juno, which had not been any way interested in, when it was out at the cinema. I thought that looks rubbish, and then I ended up walking 3 miles to a supermarket to find a copy.
Everything about my subconscious was telling me that there was something happening in me, and I was in complete denial about it. I didn’t know I was pregnant until I miscarried, and it was a hormonally and emotionally a difficult time. Although I did go through a grieving process, ultimately I realised it was the right thing that had happened.
So it was a strange experience but it changed the course of my life, no longer, did I think I had to have children or worried about having to plan it into my life when I just realised, that wasn’t for me. But it took that realisation for it to come to the front of my mind.
What has been your experience in sharing your journey of not having children with those who are important to you?
When I told my Mum and Dad I didn’t want to have kids, I had wanted to find a way to tell them for some time. My brother is about a decade older than me had already had children, so there was this assumption that the baby cousins would be along at some point, which was enormous pressure. So when I told my parents, it felt to me like the way some of my gay friends have told me about coming out to their parents. You build it up and worry about it and then your parent’s laugh and go “yeah we know, Katie, we have always known,” and that was their reaction and it was a huge weight off my shoulders.
It was massive relief because I was so worried about it; I had just assumed that they expected me to have kids, like I assumed society expects me to.
With my current partner it was easy, for me rather than asking him if he wanted to have children, I told him I don’t want to have children, and he was fine with that.
At the time I was pregnant I was in different relationship, it ended that relationship because everything was wrong and that was the best choice, it felt liberating.
I wonder has it impacted relationships with those around you, in the past and to this present day?
I think they are mostly quiet accepting of me, friends who have children, there is a bit of distance, I don’t relate them and they don’t relate to me.
We are still friends, but there has definitely been a dynamic change.
In other ways I have made other friends who are more similar to me.
Do you feel not having children has impacted the way you view your body?
My relationship with it no, but I suppose it has made me think about my body.
Maybe when I was younger I assumed it was to be a vessel for carrying children, but now I realise it has the potential to do so many other things.
When I was younger I climbed Kilimanjaro that’s the type of thing my body was made for, I don’t have to be a vessel for another human being.
Any other challenges like Kilimanjaro that you would like to do in the future if your body is meant climbing.
I don’t so, I think I peeked but its interesting that my mind has picked that, because before I climbed the mountain, a friend of mine who had also climbed the, Kilimanjaro, said “its like childbirth, at the time you feel like its the most tortuous painful horrible thing and you regret ever starting it, but afterward your so elated you don’t remember the pain.”
Although I have never been through childbirth in that sense, I don’t remember how hard it was, I don’t remember how much it hurt, I just remember going that’s the best thing I ever did.
What has been the most challenging part of your experience of not having children?
Yeah, this was the bit I was finding harder to speak about. The most challenging part is that I worry about it being wrong to not want to have a baby. Particularly feeling bad because so many women I know really want to have children and will do anything to have that experience, yet here’s me able to, but not wanting to. It feels like there is a poetic injustice in the world in that sense.
I felt like should, I should fulfil the natural obligation because so many people find it so hard, but I know that would be the wrong thing to do.
The loss of the pregnancy and feeling ok about that seems taboo, and because your supposed to grieve forever, whereas, to me I grieved for a set amount of time and then I moved on, and I don’t feel like I have to hang onto that.
That little one deserved a Mum who wanted to be a Mum.
It’s conflicting to feel excepting of it, and then to feel guilty for being excepting of it, so there is a lot of guilt.
I struggle to relate to women who put themselves thorough IVF and push so hard doing every scientific procedure to conceive, because there are so many children in the world who are unloved and don’t have parents.
I just don’t understand the need to be pregnant. I can understand the need to love a child, I get that I just don’t understand the need to be pregnant, it’s just not part of my brain and biological make up.
It’s not a conversation I can with my friends who are going through those processes, they would be so hurt to hear me say that, I just can’t begin to relate.
As well as the challenges you have experienced, I wonder can you share any positive aspects?
Well, (laughs) you have said it already, there is time, there is money and there is energy.
I have the constant feeling I have taken the right path and that has always been validated, I get the time to learn, if I feel like dong a university course I can do it. I don’t have to worry about anyone else’s needs.
I hope it’s not selfish but for a long time I have tried to get to know me. When I was younger I thought I would have a kid, because you had to, and that would happen when I knew myself, but whilst I am on this constant voyage of self-discovery I will never know who I am enough to help someone else.
I think about myself in a parallel universe, there is a pregnant me, or someone who now has a 12 year old, and it just makes me feel sad, the picture of my life just looks grey and black and unhappy. I feel really sorry for her as she is not living this life and I am getting to.
So if you say, that life is very sad and grey, I wonder what does your actual life look like if you were to put colours to it.
It’s mostly pinks, yellows, greens and blues, and countryside meadows. It’s vibrant and energetic; it is filled with more choices, rather than fewer choices.
It feels like there is space there.
There is lots of love in my life, family friends, animals and children that aren’t biologically connected to me. I have made the right choice, I have taken the right path.
Its interesting because as your speaking I am reflecting on your comment about coming out, and I wonder is it a choice for some women, or is its innate knowing, its not been a choice it s just who you are?
Your right, I am kidding myself that its a choice, because no really its just who I am.
What’s you perfect ideal picture of your life as you get older?
Much like it is now, its not hugely different, its having a job I love, having a partner who cares for me, who is the perfect fit for my personality, and having the time to do what I like.
I don’t feel obliged to do anything and I am not constrained by any expectations.
If you could change one thing about how not having children is viewed, what would you wish to change?
I had to think really long and hard about this, and I had to come back to it lots of times because I wasn’t sure, but I think it was about changing the perception that women have of themselves, that women themselves have when they cant have children.
I want those women to put their energy into something else, give it its importance but nurture something different.
Anotherhood is about connecting women with shared experiences, I wonder can you share anything that you have found that has helped you to embrace your life without children?
That comes back to being an artist, and my human urge to create.
The human urge to create can result in most people wanting to have a baby, to be pregnant, but for me it’s about making something else.
Its a call for action.
Professionally I have nurtured 100’s of children, as a community worker, and a support worker and as a coach. I think that’s where my fulfilment comes from; not having children has helped me to be able to fulfil those rolls.
Possibly when you work with children most of our professional life you don’t need them in your home life.
Are there any podcast/ books that you have found have helped you on your journey?
Grief Unseen: healing pregnancy loss through the arts.
It was really useful from an artistic and symbolic perspective and I think I learnt a lot about what I was going through. The physical and emotional, it was useful to read maybe what to expect. It was useful to read other stories from other which helped me validate how I felt, that was equally useful for me to learn about myself.